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DAC looks to change recycling funding formula

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news Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

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     “We lost $20,000 at recycling this year,” Developmental Achievement Center Director Ed Ranson told the board. He was there to pitch a new funding formula that he said would be beneficial to both the county and DAC’s clients.

     The DAC has a monopoly on recycling waste through the county, but Ranson said uncertainties in the economy have resulted in boom and bust cycles for the DAC.

     “We had a terrible year last year, worst since I’ve been there,” Ranson said.

     “We’d like to get out of that roller coaster.”

     The DAC employs 74 developmentally disabled adults at sites throughout the community: Bearly Used, The Tin Ceiling, The Salvage Depot, the DAC and at the south transfer station.

     Ranson proposed a flat fee rather than a per pound rate.

     “We simply can’t make it at $95 a ton,” Ranson said, pointing out the DAC takes the risk “of lousy prices on the market” and low rates for recycled commodities.

     Another problem DAC is grappling with is the scavenging taking place at the transfer station. It’s gotten so prevalent, the transfer station is known as the Henrietta Mall because of all the steals on deals.

     Recycling’s boom fell with the economy as consumers could no longer afford to buy new and saw the wisdom of hanging on to what they already had.

     The DAC weathered those times, too, Ranson said, when the bottom dropped out of the market.

     With a flat fee paid, the county and DAC will always know how to budget for its recycling operation.

     Ranson said he picked the sum of $300,000 annually out of the air.

     After the DAC recouped the $300,000, the county and agency would split all profits thereafter, Ranson proposed.

     “Five of the last seven years you would have gotten a better rate,” he said, showing the county statistics that dated back to 2007.

     With the costs capped, the county could simplify its own paperwork, Ranson theorized.

     But the two entities would also split the risk.

     Council member Matt Dotta did some quick math and pounced on Ranson’s figures, questioning if the agency head was overvaluing the DAC’s costs while undervaluing the county’s.

     “You want us to spend your money wisely,” Ranson said. “Right now you have a disincentive to recycle because for every pound you do we come back and ask for more money.”

     “It looks like it costs us more to recycle than it’s worth,” board chair Cal Johannsen suggested.

     “No doubt it would be cheaper to leave it all in the trash and bury it,” Ranson countered.

     But the public supports recycling and the DAC programs, so the board agreed to give the proposal a serious look. Recycling is also mandated by law.

     Solid Waste interim manager Jed Nordin proposed some tipping fee charges targeting large commercial farming operations, which could end up paying to dispose of huge tires. Right now the county has to incur the cost of their disposal.

     “I don’t want to see them in the ditches and in the woods,” Johannsen said. The county agreed years ago to take them to avoid the rural eyesores of dumping them. Nordin said the changes in tipping fees for tires “are pretty minimal.”

     Ranson suggested billing offices for the disposal of computers, which are usually stripped and are virtually worthless by the time they reach the transfer station, he said.

     Nordin suggested an overall 8 percent increase in solid waste rates to get the department back on solid footing. An 8 percent raise still leaves the Solid Waste Department with a $35,000 loss.

     “We budgeted to lose $35,000?” Johannsen asked Nordin, who nodded.

     “I think it’s the right direction to go, taking steps like this,” Nordin said. “It could still use some tweaking.”

     Because solid waste assessments don’t figure into the county’s overall levy, the board agreed to take a look at the fees.

     In other business, the board:

  •      Approved a purchase of service agreement with St. Joseph’s Area Health Services for public health services in 2014. Community Health, which recently moved into the RE/MAX building ion Highway 34 in Park Rapids, is paid $240,161. The amount has not changed from last year.
  •      Heard from COLA members Dan Kittilson and Chuck Diessner that they want to sit down in a closed door meeting to discuss changes to the combined Planning Commission-Board of Adjustment.

     After Jan. 1, the two boards will be combined to a single entity for savings and better efficiency.

     COLA members have been attending Board of Adjustment meetings since 2010 and have in the past been embroiled in a lawsuit over past BOA decisions. They have been vocal in their suggestions as to variances and shoreline improvements.

     They requested two commissioners, those likely to have the most ties to the combined board, Environmental Services Officer Eric Buitenwerf and the two COLA members to be present.

     Without a quorum, the meeting does not have to be opened to the public.

     COLA has been pushing for a “more professional” board to oversee shoreline development, instead of a citizens’ board.

     But having plumbers and trades professionals on the board has helped in the past understand how construction works and some of the difficulties encountered in shoreland development.

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